Ripples of Prayer Spreading in Udmurtia
by Blake Williams
Editor's Note: Southern Baptists will observe the 2010 Day of Prayer and Fasting for World Evangelization May 23.
During one of his mission trips to Udmurtia, Jack Gilliland, pastor of Rea Valley Baptist Church in Flippin, Arkansas, asked a local believer, "Are we making any difference? Are we just coming and entertaining you, or is this helping?"
"Every time you come," responded the man, "it's like you drop a rock in a pool and whatever foggy, murky stuff that's on the top brushes away a little bit — and we see a little more clearly."
Today Gilliland volunteers from his Arkansas home as an International Mission Board virtual strategy coordinator, which he describes as "filling in where the missionaries can't go or live."
The Udmurts, an unreached people group in Russia, were the focus of Southern Baptists' Day of Prayer and Fasting for World Evangelization emphasis in 2007. Since then, answers to those prayers are bringing Living Water to the spiritually thirsty in the Republic of Udmurtia.
Around the world people have come to Christ, doors have opened to allow witness in places where missionaries cannot go, and the faith of believers has strengthened. The common thread? Prayer — focused on one people group at a time for nearly twenty years of Day of Prayer and Fasting emphases.
One of the 2007 prayer requests asked Southern Baptists to pray God would call an individual to coordinate efforts among the Udmurts. Shortly afterward, the Lord burdened Gilliland's heart.
During the past three years, Gilliland has led multiple short-term volunteer teams to serve as "virtual missionaries" in the absence of full-time missionaries. Volunteers work alongside and encourage the seven small Baptist churches in Udmurtia and help approximately two hundred indigenous believers minister to and present the Gospel to villagers. Less than 0.3 percent of Udmurtia's population is considered evangelical Christian.
Recently, two American couples became burdened for the Udmurt people as well.
Charlie and Heather Murphy,* originally from Searcy, Arkansas, and Joplin, Missouri, first met Will and Marie Thompson,* whose hometowns are Cordell, Oklahoma, and Clinton, Oklahoma, while attending school together in Texas. Now they are Russian-language students living in Izhevsk, the capital city of Udmurtia. They have learned to rely on the Lord through prayer as they transition to the new culture and language.
The couples pray for the day when more Udmurts will put their trust in Christ and boldly share their faith.
Southern Baptists will unite again this May 23 on the Day of Prayer and Fasting for World Evangelization to celebrate answered prayers over the years and to continue to pray for God's intervention among the peoples who still need to hear the Good News. To learn more about the Day of Prayer, visit imb.org/dayofprayer. The Web site features resources to help churches, small groups, and Sunday School classes pray for peoples who have yet to hear the Gospel, including a downloadable poster and video, planning helps, and other materials. The Day of Prayer and Fasting DVD will be available after April 1. To order, go to imbresources.org or call (800) 999-3113.
The Court OKs "Under God" in the Pledge
by Michael Foust
One of the nation's most liberal federal courts cited the Founding Fathers Thursday in ruling that teacher-led recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools — with the phrase "under God" — is constitutional.
In doing so, the three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals turned back a lawsuit from atheist Michael Newdow, who argued the phrase amounted to an unconstitutional government establishment of religion. Newdow won at the same court in 2002 before losing at the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled he did not have legal standing to file the case. The 2002 decision by the Ninth Circuit — it struck down the Pledge's "God" reference as unconstitutional — sparked a firestorm that even drew a reaction from Congress.
Newdow re-filed the suit in 2005 along with other parents within the Rio Linda Union School District in California, giving him legal standing. The Supreme Court had said he lacked legal standing because he did not have primary custody of his daughter.
Thursday's 2-1 Ninth Circuit ruling was much different from that 2002 ruling, partially because it was a different three-judge panel. The same panel Thursday also upheld the "In God We Trust" motto and inscription on money in a suit that also was filed by Newdow.
The Founders, Judge Carlos T. Bea wrote for the majority in the Pledge ruling, "believed that the people derive their most important rights, not from government, but from God." He pointed to the Declaration of Independence as an example.
"The Pledge of Allegiance serves to unite our vast nation through the proud recitation of some of the ideals upon which our Republic was founded and for which we continue to strive: one Nation under God — the Founding Fathers' belief that the people of this nation are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights," Bea wrote, citing various phrases in the Pledge.
Bea, a nominee of President George W. Bush, was joined in the sixty-page majority opinion by Judge Dorothy W. Nelson, a President Carter nominee. Judge Stephen Reinhardt, another Carter nominee, wrote a 133-page dissent. He was in the majority in the 2002 decision.
Citing Supreme Court precedent on Ten Commandments monuments, the majority said it is constitutional for children to recite the Pledge with the "under God" reference because the phrase is just two words surrounded by words whose focus is not religious. The focus of the Pledge is patriotic, the court said.
Cooperative Program Sunday – April 11
Baptist Doctrine Study – April 11-15
Life Commitment Sunday – April 18
SBC Seminaries Sunday – April 25
Senior Adult Sunday – May 2
Christian Home Week – May 2-9
Baptist Association Emphasis – May 16-22
Day of Prayer and Fasting for World Evangelization – May 23